Colossians 3. 20-21 Mystery of Family (Children)

January 8, 2012 Series: Colossians

Topic: New Testament Passage: Colossians 3:20–3:21

Intro – Review of Colossians
2Corinthians 13.5   5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? —unless indeed you fail to meet the test!.  In his 2nd letter to the Corinthian church, Paul charges “Christians” to do a self-exam—to ask hard questions of themselves—to evaluate if they are living with minds set on Christ.  For the last 13 weeks, the letter to the Colossians has been our test.  It is a letter written to a church much like ours, in city much like ours, to people who, like us, fight to hold Jesus Christ as supremely greater than any gratification  AND to live in Him as sufficient for every satisfaction in this life and the next.  Their world, like our own, offers all kinds of material, political, and even religious Lords and Saviors not named Jesus.  And so Paul writes to condemn all philosophy, human tradition, and self-made religion that has come into the city, lies and half-truths that have has the appearance of wisdom but do nothing for the heart.  Paul’s argument is simple and plain—it is the gospel—the person and work of Jesus.  Paul starts with BIG THEOLOGY—that  Jesus, the eternal Son of God, the creator of all things, the ruler of all things, and the sustainer of all things, became the healer of all things by dying on the cross and rising from the dead to make those sinners who put faith in Him, saints.

God & Family
But the gospel is more than a set of facts that you accept and get saved by, only to move on to more “spiritual things.”  We see in Colossians that Paul’s mission is not to take us from irreligious to religious—you can do that without Jesus.  His mission is to mature believers in Christ, to apply the truth of the gospel deeper in our hearts so that we will regularly deny what is dead in the flesh and embrace what is alive in Christ. When we spend time with Jesus, listen to Jesus, meditate on Jesus, and talk with Jesus, what begins as a radical change in identity WILL CONTINUE to radically shape our daily lives, our attitudes, our perspectives, our reactions, and our relationships.  Christians devoted to the Lordship of Jesus will have marriages, families, jobs, and attitudes that are different than a culture devoted to itself.  The great TEST question for today is if our faithful devotion suddenly stopped today, would our families look any different?  We’ve spent two weeks with husbands, wives, and marriage.  Now we see the gospel applied the parent-child relationship. 

CHIDREN:  ”Young” Children
The first verse deals with how children relate to their parents. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Colossians 3.20 …The Bible tells children to obey their parents in everything.  Obedience here is a different word than the “submission” used in the marriage relationship.  This is more than consenting to follow a leader; this is doing what you are told. This is a popular verse in the Ford home.  There is no need for me to pull the “because I told you so” card.  I go straight to the Grand Trump Card—“because God told you to obey me.”   It is VERY important for your children to know that there is an authority OUTSIDE of you, that you are under God’s authority just as they are under your authority.  The respect that is due you is not the result of some personal intrinsic awesomeness—Mom and Dad are sinners just like you Junior—obedience IN EVERYTHING comes from a reverence for God above everything. Kids, you obey not solely because it pleases Mom and Dad, but because it pleases the Lord. 

Rejection of God & His Authority
The best way for children to serve the Lord is for them to learn to obey their parents, not because it is easy, but because it is RIGHT.  Consider the example of righteous Jesus who, by the command of the Father, was sent to earth and willingly, by the command of Father, died on the cross for the joy of bringing honor to the Father and salvation to us—obedience even when painful but with a larger view beyond thatpain.  In the companion passage in Ephesians, Paul writes:  Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”    There is a PROMISE attached to the command to obey your parents.  That “things would go well” and that one would live long in the land” meant that they would be sure to experience the promised covenant blessings of the Lord—a God-glorifying and enjoyable life.  (The anti-thesis is also true, if one did not obey, if one did not “honor your Father and Mother”, they would be sure to experience God’s promise of cursings—life would be self-glorifying and thus unsatisfying).  Though we are tempted to insert a parenthetical—“Paul means obedience to good commands”—the promise is not dependent upon the quality of the command (Let’s be honest…kids have problems not with commands that are not biblical but that they don’t like).  What is emphasized here is upholding the creative order of God.  Disobedient/Disrespectful children are a telltale sign of the decay in a family and a culture.  Rejection or dishonoring of the authorities that God has placed in our lives is one of the first and most obvious signs of our rejection of God’s authority.

 “Old” Children
Everyone is thinking TWO things right now. FIRST, for those who do not have children, you’re thinking about going for another cookie because you think this doesn’t apply to you.  And for those with kids who are “grown up”, you’re considering going to the bathroom for the third time this sermon.  So, let’s make this personal—we all have parents—we are all children (some of us more childish than others).  The 10 Commandments are more than just a list of rules—they not only reveal our sin and lead us to Christ, they also give us insight into the unchanging character of God.  The first four commandments speak of man’s relationship with God and the last six speak of man’s relationship with one another.  The fifth commandment to “Honor your father and your mother” is not a commandment simply to help parents with their kids, it is for men and women, God’s representatives in this world, charged to declare God’s rule in how they interact with authority—especially in the family.  And while this command is most relevant to children, it is given to adults.  When we refuse to live according to God’s design, to act as God’s authoritative agent or to respect God’s agents, the result is chaos.   In as much as children honor or dishonor their parents, as youth honor their teachers, as men and women honor the authorities in their lives (political leaders, bosses, or even elders, God is honored or dishonored in our lives.  

Sinful Parents & Jesus Example
We never stop having parents—even if they only live in or memories or the stories we share. The SECOND thing your minds is consumed with right now is all the ways you believe your parents have fallen short, screwed up, or sinned against you—all the reasons as to why they are not worthy of honor.  Many of us are sitting on a pile of unforgiveable sins that needs to be repented of.  You’ve already decided where you’re authorized NOT to show grace—because of all the ways your parents hurt you or did not love you as you think they should have.  I am not trying to minimize the reality that all of our parents failed or hurt us in some way (as you will fail your own children). But, if you can ignore you’re the legal defense team rushing to our minds right now, consider the example of Jesus—who through faith, by His Spirit, lives through you.  The Bible says that Jesus was sinless.  Not only did He obey is heavenly Father perfectly, he obeyed his earthly parents in way that pleased the Lord.  Do we realize that Joseph and Mary were both sinners—both broken parents who made mistakes and bad decisions?   And yet, Jesus did not use that fact as an excuse to justify dishonor—he honored them—even when dying on the cross, cried out to his best friend John to take care of his aging mother Mary.  And without doubt, as you have gotten older, we do not obey them in the same way we did as young children.  Let us consider, “old children”, how this verse instructs us about our disposition toward our parents—if they are alive how we treat them, if they are dead how we remember them--and what effect our example is having or will have on the generations to follow.

The 2nd verse deals with HOW parents, particularly Fathers, relate to their children. And it is noteworthy that this letter was read publicly in the churches, so this passage would be quite meaningless if there were not children there to hear it. They also heard verse 21.  It is important that your children not only hear what they are commanded to do, they must also know what you are commanded to do—this becomes hugely important for discipline whereby your motivation is governed by obedience. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged...Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Col 3.21, Eph. 6.4)

Regardless of when, if, or how you become a parent, we need to begin with the truth that parenting is HARD.  And it is made harder because we have sinful parents trying to care for sinful children sinfully.   To begin with some encouragement, let’s admit that there is no perfect parent and there is certainly no perfect kid.  There is no world’s greatest Mom or world’s greatest Dad—even if you have a mug or T-shirt to prove it.  The Bible says that there is ONE perfect Father, ONE who is love, ONE who is “good”, and the rest of us are imperfect, unloving, and “bad”.  I don’t care how many books you read, classes you take, or advice you get, parenting is tough.  The Old Testament Scripture will reveal that sometimes “Good Parents have Bad Kids” and “Bad Parents have Great Kids”. Whether it is Noah, Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Eli, or David, Bible has stories of real parents with screwed up kids that should encourage us.  The Bible makes it clear that a “perfect” environment is not a guarantee of godly children –see Garden of Eden.

Fathers do not PROVOKE

So while it is not always the parents fault, parents are charged with the responsibility to honor God by parenting His way—to do otherwise is sinful and devastating to the parent-child relationship.  Paul warns Fathers not to provoke their children in way that leads them to become angry or discouraged—literally make them “embittered” toward you, God, and life.  The overarching theme is that children become discouraged when you do not love them as God loves you through discipline and instruction.

1.    Children become discouraged when you don’t love them enough to discipline for doing wrong.

2.    Children become discouraged when you don’t love them by disciplining them wrongly.

3.    Children become discouraged when you don’t love them enough to instruct them in what is right.

4.    Children become discouraged when you don’t love them by instructing wrongly.

Disciplining & Instructing
If you don’t want your kids to become embittered toward you, toward God, or toward life, then you must love them enough to discipline and instruct them biblically.  If you believe in the gospel, if you believe in the doctrine of sin, it is unloving to allow children to have whatever their hearts want unrestrained or to allow their primary instruction to come from the world.  However loving or free that might “feel” to your o them, the Bible says that true freedom comes through obedience to God’s truth.

This DOES NOT mean you just start spanking liberally and teaching whatever you’ve been taught or parenting books say.  That is stupid and possibly sinful. What is needed is to bring the GOSPEL to bear on your parenting and allow it to govern your discipline and your instruction. Parents not centered on the gospel will discipline and instruct with the wrong motivation, the wrong goals, and the wrong means

Parents who discipline without the gospel, (rebuke or spanking) fail to realize that the problem is not behavior, it is the heart.  Without the gospel, discipline becomes an unloving tool used to punish without any purpose beyond stopping behavior.  Parents do not see themselves as authoritative agents of God who parent for the glory of God, but as authoritative rulers fighting for their own respect which comes through bending the child’s will to their own—an activity that is usually provocative, reactionary, unloving, and rooted in the approval of men.   

Parents who instruct without the gospel, end up teaching unbiblical truth in order to shape their child into a certain kind of person they think they need to be—full of self-esteem, polite, educated, successful, etc.  On the light side, instruction is earthly and focused on the building up the flesh with little if any spiritual content.  The dark side of gospel-less instruction is when their instruction basically is a declaration of how far short the child falls.  The only instruction is correction.  If  he is only nagged, constantly corrected, and never encouraged or given hope, the child will begin to think things like, I’ll never get it right, or, All he does is criticize, or, He’ll never love me.

Gospel-centered discipline begins with recognizing that you, as a parent, are an authoritative agent of God in the life of your child.  Your individual goal is to glorify God, and you are to help him through your obedience to His command to discipline and instruct your child His way.  You have a duty to represent God’s holiness to your children.  Therefore, you have a duty to lovingly restrain your child from pursuing sin. Sometimes this comes from loving, measured, rebuke where by you point out their sin, explain its consequences, and call them to repent.  And at times this means spanking your children.  As parents, we must learn that the Bible teaches that not only that this loving, but that it is unloving NOT to correct your child with the rod.  The gospel governs our discipline, reminding us that stopping the behavior is not the end goal. The goal is heart change and that means breaking the will of the self, and replace it with God’s (not yours )—heart change.  Ted Tripp says, “A change in behavior that does not stem from a change in heart is not commendable; it is condemnable.”  Our deepest concerns must be to unmask a child’s  heart-attitude and help them understand how it reflects a heart that has strayed from God. (More discipline younger)

Accomplishing this requires gospel instruction before, during, and after with discipline.  Our job is not to force them, physically or emotionally, to become the person you think they should be.  Parents are called to shepherd them toward becoming person God says they are—a sinner who is loved.  And a parent cannot start teaching about God only when His laws are broken.  Gospel truth must saturate the family all the time so that all discipline and all-instruction is happening in a gospel-centered environment. 

  • We must charge our children with Scripture—the promises and warnings of God. 
  • We must charge them BEFORE they fall. 
  • We must charge them repeatedly.
  • They must be taught not that they are sinners but we must not allow them to despair in their sin. We must take them to the cross again and again and again. 
  • They must be encouraged to hope in the cross when they fall short, but to boast in the cross when they think they don’t. 
  • We must teach them about sin, why they sin, the consequences of sin, and how Christ gives them victory over sin. And we must charge them with more than words—but our actions...meaning, when we fail, when we parent them poorly…we confess our own sin to them and demonstrate our own belief in the forgiveness and hope of the cross.

The final thing that the gospel reminds us is that the power to do all of these things does not come from us. That means it will require more prayer, more study of God’s word, and more counsel from those parents who have gone before us.  Part of believing the gospel begins with understanding that you are yourself a sinner.  And therefore, you realize the power to be a good parent or child comes from Christ in you. 

Remember, you never stop being a child…and you never stop being a parent. For those with older children, you still have a voice in their life—you are still an agent of God.  Though you have moved out and are not under your discipline, they will still listen to your instruction. Make sure it is gospel-centered.